As you get older, your risk of complications from type 2 diabetes increases. For example, older adults with diabetes have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Older adults are also more likely to develop other complications of type 2 diabetes, such as nerve damage, vision loss, and kidney damage.

At every age, you can take steps to lower your risk for complications. Following your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan and leading a healthy lifestyle both make a difference.

If you’re concerned about type 2 diabetes complications, talking to your doctor may help. Read on for questions and information you can use to get the discussion started.

What are my risk factors for complications?

Multiple risk factors affect your chances of developing complications from type 2 diabetes. Some of these are impossible to control. Others can be managed through medical treatments or lifestyle changes.

In addition to age, your risk of developing complications can vary based on your:

  • personal and family medical history
  • weight and composition
  • socioeconomic status
  • race
  • sex
  • lifestyle habits

Your efforts to manage diabetes can also affect your risk of developing complications. If you find it difficult to manage your blood sugar levels and your A1C test results are often higher than recommended, your chances of experiencing complications go up. High blood pressure and high cholesterol also raise the risk.

To learn more about your personal risk factors, speak with your doctor. They can help you develop a plan to prevent complications from type 2 diabetes.

How can I lower my risk of complications?

To lower your risk of complications, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan for type 2 diabetes. It’s also important to manage any other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or depression.

To treat type 2 diabetes, your doctor might:

  • prescribe medications
  • recommend other treatments, such as counseling or weight loss surgery
  • encourage you to make changes to your diet, exercise routine, or other habits
  • advise you to check your blood sugar levels on a regular basis
  • ask you to attend regular health checkups

In addition to monitoring your blood sugar levels, the American Diabetes Association encourages people with type 2 diabetes to be screened for:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol and triglycerides
  • signs of peripheral artery disease
  • signs of kidney disease
  • signs of nerve damage
  • vision loss

Ask your doctor for more information about when and how you should be screened for these conditions. Your recommended screening schedule may vary, based on your health history.

If you have questions or concerns about your current treatment plan or screening schedule, speak with your doctor. If you’ve developed new symptoms or you’re having trouble managing your condition, let your doctor know.

What lifestyle habits should I practice?

Following a healthy lifestyle can help you manage your blood sugar levels and lower your risk of complications from type 2 diabetes. For optimum health, try to:

  • eat a well-balanced diet
  • limit your consumption of alcohol
  • avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • do at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise and two sessions of muscle strengthening activities per week
  • get enough sleep each day
  • keep your skin clean and dry
  • take steps to manage stress

To support changes to your lifestyle, your doctor might refer you to a specialist. For example, a dietitian can help you develop an eating plan to manage your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and weight. A physical therapist can help you develop a safe and effective workout plan.

What should I do if I develop complications?

If you notice changes in your physical or mental health, talk to your doctor. They can help identify the cause of any symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatment.

If you develop complications from type 2 diabetes, early diagnosis and treatment may help improve your long-term outlook. Ask your doctor for more information about your symptoms, diagnosis, and recommended treatment plan.

The takeaway

No matter your age, you can take steps to lower your risk of complications from type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor how you can lead the healthiest life possible with this condition. Try to follow their recommended treatment plan, make healthy lifestyle choices, and let them know about any changes to your health.